A Room of One's Own

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3-Presentation: Children’s Literature

Beyond a Room of Own´s Own: Top-Notch Hans Christian Andersen Award (HCA) Women-Winners

Summary of the presentation delivered at FAAPI 2008 Conference

Similarly to other “new literatures” such as national, ethnic, post-colonial and others, literature for children also has reached status and acceptance in the last decades. Many reasons account for this change, among them, changes in socio-cultural paradigms, views of childhood representations, and exponential sci-tech developments. During the last century, in particular, the voices of prestigious writers have helped to transform the formerly smug, inane edifying tone of texts addressed to children into vigorous writings portraying the diversity of human experience just as they see it reflected in everyday experience. These distinctive voices have marked the coming-of-age of a genre distinguished by quality books that have steadily provided the young with imaginative tools to envisage new worlds, create and shape identity and, above all, to show appreciation for the culture of “otherness”.

The relevance of children´s reading for promoting international , trans-cultural and trans-ethnic understanding finds an encouraging historical precedent in Jella Lepman, a German Jewish refugee journalist whose mission was to ensure children´s access to books of high literary and artistic standards. In 1952 –aided by world publishers and personalities such as Bertrand Russell, Ortega y Gasset and Eleanor Roosevelt, among others, she founded IBBY –the International Board of Books for Young People—the worldwide organisation responsible for materialising Lepman´s vision. The creation of IBBY´s Hans Christian Andersen Award –also called the “little Nobel Prize”– has been instrumental in fostering the circulation of the best children´s literature in the last 50 years. Granted each two years, it honours the contributions of both writers and illustrators of children´s books. In the course of its history the HCA awards have frequently distinguished the work of English-speaking writers and illustrators.

Bearing no animosity towards their also first-rate male counterparts, we think it timely to share with you a little about the outstanding women who, at different times and in different “Englishes”, have made a long-lasting contribution to the field. A bird´s-eye-view will suffice to give you a picture of who they are; then through brief chosen excerpts we shall let them speak to you directly so you may enjoy the uniqueness of their voices.

Ma. Cristina Thomson de Grondona White and Laura Canteros
E.L.V. S. B. Spangenberg; I.E.S. J.R. Fernández ; AATI


2 Responses to “3-Presentation: Children’s Literature”

  1. monica said

    This is my first visit to this site . I found it amazingly provocative, in a highly positive way and overwhelmingly moving as well.

    This is because I keep a copy of A.A.Milne´s ” Now we are Six” that I was given as a prize when very young and that I often reread- to this day.

    The text for the tomb epitaph ( and drawings) made me cry. I think it is the author´s gift to present a different. surprising perspective without naming it which makes me admire him so much.

    Thank you for the text

  2. cris1923 said

    Thanks, Monica, for sharing your response to Milne´s unfailing ´effect´on his readers. I´m sure you´ll enjoy this bit by him. A little nostalgic, true, but interesting to understand one who who loved words and stories: “[…] in the main, writing is just thrill; the thrill of exploring. The more difficult the country, the more untraversed by the writer, the greater (to me, anyhow) the thrill. Well, I have had my thrill out of children´s books, and know that I shall never recapture it.” (The Cambridge Guide to Children´s Books in English, C.U.P. 2001, p. 483).

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